Monatheistic aspect in Hinduism

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Submitted: January 08, 2017

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Submitted: January 08, 2017

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UNDERSTANDING NOTION OF GOD IN THE HINDUISM

1.1 Introduction to notion of God

Throughout its 4000years of history, Hinduism has always been characterized by its flexibility, openness and tolerance. It abounds in myths, idols and superstitions. It has its traditional, highly complicated cast system. It enshrines philosophic speculations of the highest order expressed corpus of literature that has few rivals. It also has developed refined techniques of concentration and asceticism. Hinduism is emphatically a religion rich and complex. It is a tireless quest for truth, and truth is God. The search for truth, that has marked every age in the history of Hinduism, is only another name for its search for God. This come clear when one looks more closely at Hindu Idolatry and mythology. They are all with an intense longing to have a near at hand and visible God.[1]

The first of the four periods into which the history of Hinduism may be conveniently divided is chiefly characterized by the Polytheism of R.G. Veda. In the second period, Vedic polytheism slips into classical Hindu Pantheism. The many are identified with the ONE, the human soul with the ABSOLUTE. The gods of the first phase are dethroned and the human soul is defied in their stead.

The accent of the second period is on the liberation of the human soul from the bondage of time, space, and matter. The third phase is perhaps the most important, and the significant. It exhibits monotheism and the crystallization of the cast system. In this stage a new dimension is added to Hindu spiritual life. The main point is no longer the depth of the soul itself, but the preoccupation with its liberation.

The cast system present from vary early times, took on the greater rigidity in this tired stager. From then till the nineteenth century it has continued to complexity. Its acceptance became a hall mark of Hinduism. The fourth and the last period is that of the twentieth century Hinduism is in a critical self examination and revelation of religious transformation. This has been provoked by many factors amongst which one might single out the following, the reform movements of the nineteenth century, and secularization. No longer, as often in the past can Hinduism be equated with acceptance of the Veda and performance of the duties of one’s cast.

The gaze of the Hindu is turned to the God outside and above, the lover of man. Thus Bakthi entered Hinduism. The element of loving devotion to a suprime and personal God (Shiva or Vishnu).Bakti has coloured the religion of the Hindu masses ever since.[2]  

The Bhagavad Gita led to the triumph of a loving adoration of a personal God. It changed the impersonal, universal detachment into warm, total attachment to KRISHNA.

Go to him for salvation with all thy soul, victorious man. By his grace thou shall obtain peace suprime… Give thy mind to me, and give me thy heart, and thy sacrifice and thy adoration. This is my word of promise. Thou shall in truth come to me for thou art dear to me.[3]

  The Hindu concept of God is also seen as a dualism. The Brahman of the Upanishad is both form and formless, manifest and unmanifest, time and timeless, the lower and the highest. The masculine pronoun HE is not applied to Brahman, but the neuterIT is applied. Brahman is neither a thing nor a person. It is the real, above and the beyond all duality of subject and object all name and form. From Its nothing can be removed nothing can be add. Hindus do not like to attribute a form to absolute reality Brahman. And also they use IT for him because of two reasons; one is Sanskrit no exact equivalent for person, the other one is personality becomes for a Hindu a limitation. The limitless suprime God who is infinite cannot have a limitation because it challenges the Almightiness of God. By denying God as a person they remove the in perfect qualities of man from the God. They added all the qualities which are governed the Universe to Brahman.

 To me God is Truth and Love, God is Ethics and Morality, God is fearlessness. God is the source of light and life, and yet He is above and beyond all these. God is conscience. He is even the Atheism and the Atheist. He transcends speech and reason. He is a personal God to those who need him and his personal presence. He is embodied to those who need his touch. He is all things to all men.”[4]

 

1.2 The Upanishadic explanation on notion of God

The meaning of Upanishads is “sitting at the feet of a master”. These Upanishads are the spiritual treatise of different length. These were composed between 800 and 400 BC. They contain the highly philosophical and metaphysical thoughts and the Hindu wisdom which was revealed and understood by the yogis or Rishis. As Bhagavad-Gita, Upanishads also have more prominent place because it contains the real truth of Hinduism or the Santantha Dharma, which most Hindus do not know. Many Upanishads talk about the absolute reality, God, Brahman, which is and will be all in all. ‘The Bhagavad Gita could be considered an Upanishad, and at the end of each chapter we find a note added in later times which begins with the words: “Here in the Upanishads of the glorious Bhagavad-Gita”.[5]

In Upanishads we see also they talk about the gods, but at the same time they have given prominent place to all mighty Brahmin. All the gods and goddess come from Brahman the God of gods. He has the power to build and destroy. “I am the first born of the world of truth, born before the gods, born in the center of immortality”.[6] God Vayu explained about Brahman, “…the food of the earth, of the breath of life, of the one who sees, of the one who hears, of the mind that knows, and of the one who speaks, and he further said to him, ‘seek to know him from whom all beings have come, by whom they all live, and unto whom they all return. He is Brahman.’”[7]

So, Brahmins is the first principle or unmoved mover or uncaused cause as St. Thomas Aquinas explained, because from Brahman the space comes. From space, air comes. From air, fire comes. From fire, water comes. From water, earth comes. From earth, living plant food and seeds come. From plants food and seeds the living being and the man came into existence.[8] And everything that which exists is moving in a circle according to the plans and whish of Brahmins. As everything came from Brahmins, who is truth, consciousness, and infinite joy, hidden in the innermost of our soul in the highest heaven will return to him.

When he appeared to pride gods, he asked god Agni to burn a straw which was in his hand. He couldn’t do it. In the same way he asked the mighty Vayu to take the straw away from his hand. He could not, because the power of Brahmins is more powerful than the other gods.[9] Umah, the goddess of wisdom answered “He is Brahman, the spirit supreme”.[10]

Brahman is the supreme spirit, which is spirit of all spirits, all the spirits that which exist here on earth and all heaven and above are combined with the supreme Brahman’s spirit.

… Oh my son, the spirit in whom sixteen forms arise is here within this body.

The spirit thought: “In whose going out shall I go out, and in whose staying in shall I stay?

And he created life, and from life faith and space, and air, light, water, and earth, the senses and the mind. Then he created food, and from food strength, austerity, sacred poems, holy actions, and even the worlds. And in the worlds, name was created.[11]

 

Because of this, whatever happens, everything abides by the Brahman. Whatever speaks, sees, touches, tastes, hears, and thinks comes from the Brahman, not by any other thing. Because Brahman is above all that exist and non-exist. “As when rivers flowing toward the ocean find there final peace, their name and form disappear, and people speak only of the ocean, even so the sixteen forms of the seer of all flow towards the spirit and find there final peace, their name and form disappear and people speak only of spirit. These forms find rest like spokes in the center of a wheel Know ye the spirit that should be known that death may afflict you not.”[12]

Brahman the God is all wisdom, He is the wisdom, as everything came from Him, and He knows everything that which exists here on earth and beyond the realm of heaven and earth. The human being who is living on earth has only a drop of knowledge comparing to Brahman about what they know. They analyze and come to conclusions through that little knowledge. But some human beings who has great privilege from Brahman, they have increased their capacity to grasp things more than the others. For that they have sacrificed their lives through meditation and Yoga. According to the Upanishads, this wisdom can be divided into two, higher and lower. “The lower wisdom is in the four sacred Vedas and in the six kinds of knowledge that help to know, to sing, and to use the Vedas: Definition and grammar, pronunciation, and poetry, ritual and the sign of heaven. But the higher wisdom is that which leads to the eternal.”[13] This higher wisdom have achieved only few, because those who achieved this wisdom, they know the God almighty who is Brahman. The creator and the almighty Brahman is the pure consciousness. Human beings have divided consciousness into two parts, that is consciousness (short term memory) and subconsciousness (long term memory). Even though human beings have the subconsciousness, when the time passes, the things will decay from their memory. But the Brahman is the consciousness that contains everything without a time period, eternal memory, and pure consciousness. The whole universe is ever within his pure power.

“Brahman is the atman, the self. “Om, this eternal word is all: what was, what is and what shall be, and what beyond is in eternity. All is Om. Brahman is all, and Atman is Brahman. Atman, the self, has four conditions.”[14]

The first condition is the waking life of outward moving consciousness, enjoying the seven outer gross elements.

The second condition is the dreaming life of inner moving consciousness, enjoying the seven subtle inner elements in its own light and solitude.

The third condition is the sleeping life of silence consciousness, when a person has no desires and beholds no dreams. That condition of deep sleep is one of oneness, a mass of silent consciousness made of peace and enjoying peace. This silent consciousness is all powerful, all knowing, the inner ruler, the source of all, the beginning and end of all beings.

The fourth condition is Atman in his own pure state, the awakened life of supreme consciousness. It is neither outer nor inner consciousness, neither semi consciousness nor sleeping consciousness, neither consciousness nor unconsciousness, he is atman the spirit himself, that cannot be seen or touched, that is above all distinctions, beyond thoughts and ineffable. In the union with him is the supreme proof of his reailty. He is the end of evolution and nonduality, he is peace and love.[15]

 

In the great silence and solitude and in the midst of thick jungle, or the ocean, all living beings comprehend the Om which is the universal sound. This Om is derived from the letters A-U-M.

The first sound, A, is the first state of waking consciousness, common to all men. It is found in the words Apti (attaining) and Adimatvam (being first). Who knows this attains in truth all his desires, and in all things becomes first. The second sound, U, is the second state of dreaming consciousness. It is found in the words Utkarsha (uprising) and Ubhayatvam (bothness). Who knows this raises the tradition of knowledge and attains equilibrium. In his family is never born anyone who knows not Brahmins. The third sound, M, is the third state of sleeping consciousness. It is found in the words Miti (measure) and the root Mi (to aim) that gives abity, final end. Who knows these measures all with his mind and attains the final end. The word Om, as one sound, is the fourth state of supreme consciousness. It is beyond the senses and is the end of evolution. It is non-duality and love. He goes with himself to the supreme self, who knows this.[16]

Brahman is the all knowledge which is prior or superior to all other in the universe and the above. Brahman existence cannot be measured, or its shape cannot be imagined because existing creation has come out from the pre-existing, unchangeable eternal reality, Brahman. It sees everything that is existing and non-existing, because it was before creation, and it is omnipresent. It cannot be limited or described human limited knowledge. Brahman’s knowledge is far beyond the human. Human beings have only partial knowledge about that which exists around them. That limited knowledge cannot grasp the things that which beyond and metaphysical. Limited beings can work according to their limitations. But, Brahman, who is infinite, has no limitation because the limitation has come from him who is infinite and limitless. “The spirit supreme is immeasurable. Inapprehensible, beyond conception, never born, beyond reasoning, beyond thoughts, his vastness is the vastness of space.”[17]

“When a man knows God, he is free:his sorrows have an end, and birth and death are no more. when an inner union he is beyond the world of the body, then a third world, the world of the spirit, is found, where the power of the All is, and man has all: for he is one with the One.”[18] Every truth seeker who seeks God should have faith to believe that truth exists. The truth is the Brahman who was, who is, and will be. The means of life or the happiness of life, human knowledge cannot give indubitable answers. Because, how life came into existence up until today, nobody can define or analyze.

The ultimate reality of life is depending on the Brahman who is truth. Because of that only, all should try to understand or grasp knowledge of truth. One who understands the truth, will understand the Brahman, who is truth. Then there won’t be any suffering, because one who attains the truth, he attains the ultimate goal of happiness, in union with Brahman the ultimate reality. There won’t be any more death. No suffering. He will get the privilege to be with an immortal being that is truth and immortal. “Then the soul of man becomes a lamp by which he finds the Truth of Brahman. Then he sees God, pure, never born, everlasting; and when he sees God, he is free from all bondage.”[19]

The God almighty who is omnipresent is in every created object. It can be the sun, moon, stars, tree, river, ocean and sky. Because all these were created by the Brahman, and they are governed by the Brahman, and they are moving in the Brahman. Even Brahman is living with each individual human being. “When a man is asleep, his soul takes the consciousness of the several senses, and goes to rest with them on the supreme spirit, who is in the human heart. When all the senses are quiet, the man is said to be asleep, then the sole holds the power of life, breath, voice, eye, ear, and mind, and they rest in quietness.”[20]

No division in the Brahman, It is common to all. And without partiality it helps and guides all that exists, even Shudras and Brahmins are treated in the same way. Brahman is not only with us when we are conscious, but also when we sleep. Brahman is with us always, near to us, that shows the love of Brahmin toward his creation. It is not only a warrior or judge, but kind and loveable God who is with its creatures.

When a man is in deep sleep, and all consciousness has gone through the seventy tow thousand little channels which leads to the center of the heart from its circumference, then the soul rests in the covering around the heart, and as a prince or a king, or a great Brahmin might find the peace or fullness of joy, so the soul of man has now found peace. Even as airy threads come from a spider, or small sparks come from a fire, so from Atman, the spirit in man, come all the powers of life, all the worlds, all the Gods, all beings. To know the Atman is to know the mystery of the Upanishads, the truth of truth, the powers of life are truth and their truth is Atman, the spirit.[21]

1.3 Monotheistic aspect of Hinduism

Monotheism is highly speaking in the Judaism, Christianity and Islamic religions. In these three major religions believe and worship only one God who was, who is, and who will be. In Judaism and Islam we can see they only talk about supreme God and His power. But in Christianity, we can see, they’re talking about the trinity, three persons but one God that is father, son and spirit. But, monotheistic aspect they have highlighted. About the creation and the almightiness go hand in hand all three religions, because all these three religions follow the same five books “Torah” as their bases. First, this one God who is above and formless became the personal God of Abraham, but from his generation that same God who is omnipresent became the God of that nation. Because of this aspect of tribal God, even today, Jews and Muslims think the almighty God is only for them. If the God is almighty and omnipresent, and everything that exists came from him, how can that God only be the God of Jews or Muslims? He should be the God of all the nations and creation, that which is existing. Otherwise, their arguments or explanations contradict themselves. But in the Christian understanding, it explains that the almighty God is for all the nations.

As the same way, history records that Egypt is a polytheistic society, but there was a temple dedicated to an unknown powerful God. Using of the term “unknown” says that God is eternal because he has not given a name. If He has a name, which shows His beginning and limitations because they had gods for warriors and beauty, etc., but this unknown God was not given a limitation, which shows that the Unknown God was almighty, omnipresent, all powerful and they could not grasp Him through their human rational capacities.

But in the understanding of Hinduism, most of the people categorize Hinduism as a pantheistic religion, One but many Gods, or as a monism. But if we go into the Vedas, or Mahabharata, we can see they are speaking about one reality (Brahman) among many gods, who has power over the different faculties of creation.

Buddhism, one of the main religions in Asia, has derived from Hinduism. Lord Buddha has not given a place to gods in his teachings, but Lord Buddha talks about the reality or the truth. These teachings were mainly based on Vedas teachings, which had existed for more than 2000 years before Lord Buddha’s birth. Since he spoke about something similar to Hinduism, Hindus have considered Lord Buddha as an Avatar of God Vishnu, one of the three murtise of almighty God Brahman. This truth of the one reality is named as “Brahman” in the Hindu concept. But his teachings were prevalent in only among the Brahmins, Rishis, or Ascetics. They understood these things long process of meditations, Yoga and studies. Lord Buddha did a lot of sacrifices to understand this reality even though as a Kshatriyal person who knew Vedas. He is not denying the existence of God, but he says there is a reality above the realm of gods. Because of that only we can see in history of Buddhism that some gods came to listen to the teachings of the Buddha.

As the Upanishads declare, it is not easy to understand the truth. The person who understands the truth will understand everything in the world, because every knowledge, wisdom, and creation is united in this reality or truth of Brahman.

Even as a mirror of gold covered by dust, when cleaned will shine again in full splendor, when a man has seen the truth of the spirit, he is one with him, the aim of his life is fulfilled and he is ever beyond sorrow.

Then the sort of man becomes a man by lamp by which he finds the truth of Brahman, then he sees God, pure, never born, and everlasting; and when he sees god, he is free from all bondage.

This is the God whose light illuminates all creation, the creator of all things from the beginning. He was, he is, and forever he shall be. He is in all and he is all.[22]

 

The Brahman, the true reality, is known as supreme and eternal reality, but there are many gods in Hinduism. These gods were given names according to the powers which exist in the world. As an example, god Vayu is known as the god of air, god Agni is the God of fire. According to Hindu understanding, there are heavens, not one heaven, as other monotheistic religions explain. There are beings existing as this world in those heavens. Those beings that exist above this world, they were named as gods. And people believed early stages the sun, moon, and all of creation is governed by the beings that exist about them. Because of that, they have given a particular part of creation to the one being or one god. But great ascetics, like Lord Buddha, they understood, even without scientific knowledge, that creation is moving in some order without the help of different Gods. Because of that, the Vedas explain that there is only one truth, God Brahman, who’s above everything, governing everything according to Its plan and wish.

The Rishis have declared that this world, at root or in essence, is one. There is only one power that appears before us in various forms and names. All existence is dependent on the One. That imperishable and changeless essence or power throws its own light through the various forms and names of the world. All are born out of the same power, and in the end, return to the same power again. There is no independent existence, except the one supreme essence. This is the first truth of the Upanishads. In our thinking there is a distinction between the animate and the inanimate, the sentient and the insentient, but the inanimate and insentient have no existence of their own independent of the one. Thus their underlying real nature is no different from the animate and sentient, as they all spring from the same one. This is the second truth of the Upanishads. All objects are finite and perishable. The infinite never appears before the senses. The senses are subordinate to the mind, observing the world to be full of incongruities, the mind and the senses re capable of acquiring only incomplete and limited knowledge.[23]

 

The Upanishads declare this One aspect as the Brahman almighty, the one aspect has acquired all the powers acquired by the one God in monotheistic religions. Because of that we can see the Brahman true reality as the powerful one God who is eternal, almighty, and omnipresent. Hinduism is a theistic religion because its dogmas and philosophy are depends on the three powerful Gods Vishnu, Shiva, and Brahma. According to the Hindu explanation, these Gods are not three but three murtis of one God Brahman. In a theistic religion, the ultimate goal cannot be a reality because, to understand reality we don’t need to go through theism, we should follow the philosophy, it will clearly help to understand the ultimate reality, happiness. But, only through philosophy nobody attains the ultimate reality of happiness. Those who understood that concept have always gone through theology. In the same way, in Hinduism, those who understood that reality, they have gone through the Hindu asceticism, and they understood that supreme reality is the supreme God, Brahman. And, through that understanding they attained the real happiness in God and they liberated their souls from this world.

It is difficult to understand that which is invisible and formless. Always, human beings are tempted to have something to understand the invisible, some form to understand the formless. This we can see in all monotheistic religions. Israel worshiped God, turning toward the Ark of the Covenant. Muslims worship Allah, God, turning toward Mecca. If God is omnipresent, why turn toward one direction? Human beings need something, some direction, or symbol to understand the invisible. Turning in only one direction doesn’t mean God is only present in that place, but everywhere. It is only to understand the invisible God. Hinduism as a humanistic religion, they have made out statues for almighty God showing Its powers in deferent ways. Actually, they do not worship the statue, but through that they glorify the God who is omnipresent, almighty, and eternal, because they believe God is living in the whole creation even doing different P?j? to different gods, ultimately they glorify the one God above all and creator of all gods and the earth.

Those who understand the creation (Brahma), purification (Shiva), and continuation (Vishnu), they will understand the unity of these three Gods, God Brahman, who is the creator, purifier, and continuer of that which exists in the world and above the world. Even gods could not understand the power of Brahman (Kena Upanishad part three) so, how can human beings understand this great mystery hidden from the human senses. Anybody in this world can argue, do experiments, but ultimately they will come to a point which they cannot explain. Only Brahman, the almighty God, can explain that because it is the truth. Brahman is God who is eternal, omnipresent, almighty, pure consciousness, and all wisdom, in all. Everything depends on it. It was, it is, and it will be. Everything created by it, in it, and for it, and everything will return to it. And with it, they will attain the liberation. Everybody worships the God Brahman, who is One God as other monotheistic religions describe. The creation proclaims the Glory of almighty God Brahman forever.

 

 

[1] Jesuit Scholars, Religious Hinduism,( Bombay ,1964) p.20.

[2]  Jesuit Scholars, Religious Hinduism( Bombay, 1964), p.242

[3]  Mascaro Juan, The Bhagavad Gita, (Penguin Classics, New Delhi, 1965) p.18, 60-65. (hence forth I use  The Bhagavad Gita).

[4]  Jesuit Scholars, Religious Hinduism (Bombay 1964) p.295.

[5]  Mascaro Juan, The Upanishads (Penguin Classics, New Delhi, 1964) p.7. (Hence forth I use The …Upanishad).

[6] The Taittiriya Upanishad, p.111.

[7] Ibid. p.110.

[8] See The Taittiriya Upanishad p.110,2.1

[9]  cf. The Kena Upanishad, part3, pp.52-53.

[10] Ibid, part4, p.53.

[11] The Prasna Upanishad, sixth question, p.76.

[12] Ibid. sixth question, p.76.

[13] The Mundaka Upanishad, chapter1,part1, p.75.

[14] The Mandukya Upanishad p.83.

[15] The Mandukya Upanishad p.83

[16] Ibid,pp83-84

[17] The Maitri Upanishad p.101

[18] The Svetasvatara Upanishd,part1,p.86

[19] Ibid,p.88

[20] The Brihad-Aranyaka Upanishad p.129

[21] The Brihad-Aranyaka Upanishad p.130

[22] Svetasvatara Upanishad, part2, p.88

[23] Swami Rama, Book of wisdom-Ishoanishad( Himalayan International Institute, Pennsylvania,1978) p.39

 


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